Saturday, September 13, 2008

Do the Clintons Really Want Obama to Win?

Amid all this year's psychodramas about gender, race and age, consider the conflict in the heart and soul of the 42nd President of the United States as he looks back at his past and ahead to his place in history.

This week Bill Clinton gave Barack Obama lunch in his Harlem office, a promise to do "whatever I'm asked" in the campaign and a prediction that Obama "will win and win handily" in November.

But nothing is simple in Clintonland. The day before, the former President had another visitor, billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, head of the "vast right wing conspiracy" that had financed his impeachment. They talked cozily about doing good in the world, just as Hillary had met with the editorial board of Scaife's Pittsburgh newspaper and won their endorsement in this year's primary.

Since there are no permanent friends or enemies in the Clintons' lives (ask Bill Richardson), their support of Obama requires close parsing.

Without his own marital melodrama, there would be little reason to doubt Clinton's sincerity about seeing Obama as a logical heir to his and JFK's Democratic legacies. But the bruising primary season and Hillary Clinton's future hopes can't be left out of the equation.

At times this year, Bill Clinton seemed to be subverting his wife's campaign out of pique in what Maureen Dowd called "a self-pitying meltdown about not being Elvis anymore" and, even worse, out of some twisted need to undermine the woman who stood by him. After the contest was over, he reportedly told friends that Obama would "have to kiss my ass" to get his support.

Now, to make matters even stickier, there is the complication of Sarah Palin. If John McCain, with a woman as his running mate, wins in November, the Democratic door is open for Hillary Clinton in 2012.

This means that both Clintons have to be careful in campaigning for Obama not to alienate diehard supporters who saw sexism in this year's defeat and would be a core part of her support the next time around. Those who refuse to back Obama would take it amiss if either Clinton went after Palin.

So for both Clintons, there is personal risk in going all out to get Obama elected.

The "Profiles in Courage" question is: Will they put their country and their party first? Or is it silly to ask?


CiarandDenlane said...

I don't see this as a Scylla and Charybdis dilemma for the Clintons. Campaigning all out on the issues is the best thing they can do for party, country, Obama, AND Hilary's chances in 2012. Going "after Palin" in what might be perceived a sexist fashion might indeed hurt Hilary four years from now, but it's not going to help Obama now either. Granted, there's sometimes a tough line to be drawn between being too negative and making a fair point about what is, after all, the need to choose the best people, not just or even mostly, the best policies (we can't be sure what the issues will be three years from now). But I don't think the judgment where to draw that line really differs depending on whether your perspective is what's best for party as opposed to what's best for Hilary.

Anonymous said...

Barack Obama is imposing very strict message control on all of his surrogates, just as he censored the speeches made at the convention in Denver. The Clintons have not gone for Palin's jugular because Obama does not WANT them to go for Palin's jugular. I am sick to death of people -- usually the same ones exhibiting the most raging cases of Clinton Derangement Syndrome during the primaries -- constantly insinuating that the Clintons have not done or will not do enough to get Obama elected. If Obama loses this election, the loss will NOT be attributable to anyone named "Clinton."

Anonymous said...

The Clintons are not insignificant, but they don't matter all that much.

With McCain-Palin ahead in places like Oklahoma by six-hundred percent, this is a year when a lot of us will be glad we have the electoral college.

Citizen Chick said...

This is the third time since leaving the White House, that Bill Clinton could have campaigned for a democrat for the office of the president. He hasn't campaigned for anyone before, why would he do it now?

Franz said...

hi, interesting blog...I think they don't want Obama...

can you link my blog?

thanks in avance...